As All-Star Game festivities have just come to a close, the New York Islanders are currently sitting in third place in the dominant Metropolitan Division with 63 points. Considering they had a historic 17-game point streak, third place is not where they had hoped to be sitting at the break just a couple of months ago. Since their points streak, the Islanders have only been a mediocre team, putting up a record of 13-12-3. Obviously, since general manager Lou Lamoriello never acquired an elite goalscorer, which the team desperately needed, third place doesn’t seem too bad.
However, over the last 28 games, it’s become more and more evident that the Islanders need a boost in their goal-scoring production. Although there has been a lot of chatter about who the Islanders should go after, the one thing that nobody can seem to agree on is who that person is. As a result, since any Islanders offer hasn’t been made public since July 1 with Artemi Panarin, the chatter certainly started to pick up when a notable figure reported that the Islanders may have been involved in trade talks with the New Jersey Devils.
The Rumor Mill
In Elliotte Friedman’s most recent “31 Thoughts” piece, he reported that an offer had been made for New Jersey Devils veteran forward Travis Zajac. Zajac, 34, has spent his entire 13-year-career with the Devils, and is a consistent producer. Lou Lamoriello, who drafted Zajac when he was GM of the Devils, is known to be a huge fan of the veteran.
Considering that Lamoriello is a big Zajac fan, when discussing the team that made the offer, Friedman said that he’d “bet all of our mortgages that it was the Islanders.” Since they haven’t made a trade since July 2018, this may be a great sign for Islanders fans.
Amid the speculation about a trade being made, MSG’s Steve Cangialosi asked Zajac where he’d like to be this season. Unfortunately for potential suitors, Zajac certainly didn’t make it seem like he wanted to go anywhere:
I’ve thought about the situation a lot. (New Jersey) is where I want to be.Travis Zajac
Following the comment, Kurt Overhardt, Zajac’s agent, reiterated the fact that his client was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause. Obviously, assuming the Islanders went after Zajac, this was not the news they wanted to hear.
How the Islanders View Zajac
The one thing that Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has repeatedly said since the beginning of his tenure with the club is that the team comes first. A great example of how seriously he takes this can be found when he benched Mathew Barzal for the third period in their last game before the All-Star break.
With that being said, Zajac has proven time and time again that he is a team player, which is why Lamoriello likes him so much. The Islanders view Zajac as a fit as he knows how to play in a system similar to Trotz’s very well. Throughout most of his 971 games played in the NHL, Zajac played on a team that was dominated by great defense and goaltending.
That’s why when his stats show only 526 points, it’s better than it may seem. His statlines are very similar to the ones Islanders players have had in the past couple of seasons, due to the system in which they play in. Keeping this in mind, the Islanders’ front office probably views Zajac as an addition that will boost production from their bottom-six forwards. Of course, having a seasoned veteran playing every night would certainly be a step-up from Michael Dal Colle.
The Islanders Deserve Better
With the trade deadline less than a month away, the Islanders should really try and re-evaluate who they look to acquire in a trade. Even though there is a strong connection between Lamoriello and Zajac, there are plenty of other options that should be considered before him. Despite the fact that he is in the last season of his contract, there are plenty of better players that the Islanders can go after that have a $5.75 million cap hit; especially since Zajac wouldn’t be providing them with an elite goalscorer.
Although Zajac declined to waive his no-trade clause, this potential trade goes to show that the Islanders may not be looking for an elite goalscorer at the trade deadline. Instead, maybe they’re just looking for some forward depth. Nevertheless, since Lamoriello runs a very tight ship, nobody really knows what he’s trying to do. In fact, he could be looking to add some depth to the bottom-six, and trade for an elite goalscorer at the same time. The point is that we just don’t know, and we probably won’t until something happens (if it ever does). The one thing that we do know, though, is that the Islanders deserve much better than Zajac.